Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy announced today that John Pagano will be the team’s defensive coordinator and assistant coaches Don Johnson (defensive line), Joe Barry (linebackers) and Greg Williams (assistant linebackers) will also join his staff.
Pagano took over as defensive coordinator after the 2011 season ended and the Bolts improved from 16th in the NFL in total defense to ninth overall in 2012. The team made its biggest leap in its run defense, improving 14 spots from 20th in 2011 to sixth in ’12.
“I want to thank the Spanos family, Coach McCoy and the entire organization for believing in me,” Pagano said. “These are very exciting times for the Chargers and I look forward to keep building our defense to where we want it to be.”
The Chargers scored a total of seven defensive touchdowns in 2012, second in the NFL to Chicago’s 12, and two shy of the team record set by the 1961 squad that returned nine interceptions for touchdowns. The 2012 Chargers returned five interceptions and two fumbles for scores. The Chargers also increased their sack total in 2012 from 32 to 38, including a team-record-tying 11-sack performance in a Dec. 23 win against the New York Jets.
San Diego’s defense received big performances from a number of young players in 2012. Kendall Reyes, the team’s second-round pick in 2012, finished the year third on the team with 5.5 sacks, while Corey Liuget, the squad’s top pick in the 2011 draft, finished the year second on the squad with seven. For the season, Reyes paced the defensive line with 19 quarterback pressures and 15 quarterback hits, while Liuget ended the year as the defensive line’s leader in sacks, tackles (61), tackles for loss (15) and passes defensed (9).
Pagano originally joined the Chargers in 2002 and is the longest-tenured coach on the staff. He was initially hired as the team’s quality control coach for the defense and moved his way up the ranks, first as an assistant linebackers coach, then as the outside linebackers coach and linebackers coach before moving into the coordinator’s role last season.
In 2010, the Chargers had the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense and the squad was second in the league in sacks. Since Pagano first started working with the team’s linebackers in 2005, a player from that group led the team in tackles and sacks every season, including Shaun Phillips who paced the squad in 2012 with 9.5. Pagano also worked closely with Shawne Merriman, who led the NFL in sacks in 2006, was selected to play in three Pro Bowls and won the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2005.